(Juniperus spp.)

The camel of trees
As you emerge from mountainous forests into eastern Oregon, you’ll find extensive, open juniper woodlands. Due to overgrazing, these woodlands have become even more prominent, which poses a problem. The juniper tree can survive in arid climates because of its ability to draw and store water. Where there is moisture, the juniper draws as much water as it can and just continues to grow, up to 50 feet tall. Its monopolization of water in regions where water is typically scarce is cause for concern.

There are three junipers that are native to the Pacific Northwest, but the one you’ll likely encounter is the western juniper, which is prominent throughout the drier parts of the state, particularly central Oregon.

This smaller evergreen has thin, shreddy bark and tiny scale-like needles.  The juniper berry is actually a cone, with soft scales that rarely open. Despite their short stature, western junipers commonly live for hundreds of years.

The understory of the western juniper is characteristic of the arid climate in which it thrives. This, in addition to its propensity to grow in thick, dense groves, means very little plant life can survive in its understory.

The western juniper can survive in conditions and climates very few tree species can tolerate. It can survive perceived drought and is the dominate, if the only, tree species in areas where the rainfall is less than 12 inches a year, but can easily survive on much less.

The wood of the juniper is used mainly for fuel and fence posts, so it is generally not grown for commercial use, although its berries are a spice used in a wide variety of culinary dishes and best known for the primary flavoring in gin (and responsible for gin's name, which is a shortening of the Dutch word for juniper, genever). Forest management is generally linked to limiting its growth in water-starved area where overgrazing creates conditions where only the juniper can grow and thrive.


9755 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 210        
Portland, OR 97225        
Phone: 971-673-2944        
Fax: 971-673-2946

twitter youtube facebook linkedin

Related Websites